An elderly aunt died and Davis was the one in the family who everyone deemed the most responsible and organized. He’s a business owner and is good with money. Seems like a good decision, right? Davis wasn’t so sure.
Things started out okay. The family was all together at the funeral, and he got a key to Aunt Betty’s small Spanish-style home. He collected her mail and figured out what bills she had. He hoped to sell the house, so he needed to keep the water and other utilities on to keep things in shape. He couldn’t let Aunt Betty’s lovely rose garden die.
One of the things an Executor or Administrator may be called upon to do is pay bills for the Decedent. However, the Decedent’s money is an Estate asset that is subject to probate, so until receiving Letters from the court, you won’t have the authority to manage bank accounts. You may have to pay bills, such as utilities and a mortgage, from your own pocket to avoid negative consequences now, and be reimbursed months later. Fortunately, Davis was able to manage these expenses.
The initial forms weren’t too bad. Davis downloaded the forms from the court website, but the clerks at the courthouse were of limited help. They informed him that they couldn’t give legal advice. He just wanted help filling out the forms, but they weren’t going to budge. He did his best, but several forms were rejected and had to be resubmitted. Conscious of the costs for every form filed online, he tried his best to be accurate, but one little detail wrong and he’d get another rejection notice. Davis worried about the mounting costs and the time it was taking away from running his business and his family.
The frustration of filling out legal forms can be overwhelming. They’re just standardized forms, but they aren’t intuitive. Even lawyers who practice in other types of law often don’t even attempt to handle these matters themselves, because the specialized knowledge required of practitioners in Probate Court is just different. Sometimes it’s a matter of how much frustration you can endure. And Davis didn’t even get to the petitions that are not forms!
Davis got a hearing date and properly provided notice to all of his family members he knew who could potentially be beneficiaries. He followed directions. But he forgot about Uncle George’s family. George had passed away many years ago when Davis was still in middle school. No one had seen George’s family for over twenty years! And Davis didn’t even know that George had two sons from a marriage before Betty. And now they wanted a share of the estate, which Betty had shared with George.
Are George’s sons legal heirs to this Estate? It really isn’t up to Davis to decide. This is why property must go through Probate and let the court decide. In fact, if Davis makes a decision to exclude them, those sons can sue Davis, and Davis can be personally liable for his mistake. Alternatively, if he feels generous and improperly includes the sons, and gives them a share to which they aren’t entitled, cousin Darlene can sue Davis for the larger share she would have received if the sons didn’t take shares — and Davis is personally liable for the difference.
Relatives can put a lot of pressure on the Administrator of an Estate to make distributions – pass out the money! But mistakes can be costly, and an Administrator can be personally liable in many situations. Is that really a risk you want to manage yourself?
Fortunately, at this point, Davis came to the Watson Law Group, APC, and we took the load off his shoulders, so he could stop worrying whether he was doing things right and get back to his life. We’ve helped many families and Administrators through the challenges of Probate. Because we’ve done it many times before, we know the process and navigate it as quickly and efficiently as possible. And Davis could get back to managing his own business, without the fear of being personally liable for any rookie mistakes. We’ve got you. Call us today at (949) 482-1850.